Whether it’s “Yes She Can” or “Hillary for Prison,” it’s hard to take a drive anywhere in the United States without coming up on at least a few different political bumper stickers. Some are official campaign gear, others are custom designed, some are picked up at rallies and protests, but they all serve the same purpose: to let whoever chances upon your bumper to know where you stand politically.
The bumper sticker’s invention is largely credited to Forest P. Gill, a silkscreen printer from Kansas. Gill invented a sticker designed specifically to stay attached to a car’s bumper in the late 1940s, and it didn’t take long for the bumper sticker to become wildly popular. By the 1950s, all types of bumper stickers could be seen affixed to cars across the United States.
The first political bumper stickers were printed en masse in 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower battled Adlai Stevenson for presidential reelection (“I like Ike” was an immensely popular slogan on bumper stickers and campaign buttons for both Eisenhower elections). These days, political bumper stickers run the full gamut of slogans, from a simple “Hope,” indicating support for President Obama, to a feisty “You are NOT entitled to what I have earned”, to mark a voter’s opposition to taxpayer-funded welfare disbursements.
Indeed, bumper stickers can express the full range of Americans’ political sentiments in a very limited amount of space. They are also more popular here than in any other country.
Political bumper stickers are a surface-level and necessarily simplistic form of communication (they leave only a few square inches to work with), and while they may seem like aesthetic clutter on the back of a car, there’s a lot more going on, both psychologically and ideologically, with political bumper stickers than mere campaign slogans.